Children in northern England are ‘falling behind’

Disadvantaged schoolchildren in the North are found to be on average one GCSE grade behind their peers in other parts of the country.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership says the disparity is leading to a serious skill shortage for employers.

The report examines a child’s development from nursery to the workplace and found primary schools in the North to perform only slightly worse than those in London.

It is at secondary school that the gap widens. A major factor is disadvantage. This is said to be drastically impairing a child’s performance and leaving them behind the rest of the UK when they leave school.

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The Northern Powerhouse Partnership is calling for major government investment for worse-off families and for companies to partner with schools.

Collette Roche who lead the review said: “This report should act as a wake-up call to everyone involved in education and skills in realising how far the North is behind the rest of the UK and where we need to get to.

“The devastating consequences of disadvantage in the North is fully set out, as is just how far our children from all backgrounds fall behind by the age of 16. These critical issues lead to employers not having a highly-skilled workforce, which is vital for increasing productivity and growth across the North.”

You don’t need to look very far in certain areas of the North to see the impact disadvantage has on the lives of young people.

At a youth project in Birkenhead we met Jared. “I sat around on my backside for about three years,” he said.

“I didn’t have no idea what I wanted to do in life until it started to hit me at 21 when I had no future. I didn’t even have a beginning of a future.”

Jared has recently started his first job as a cleaner. He beams as he tells me he doesn’t care that his shifts begin at 4am because it feels so good to be earning his own money.

Jared was unemployed for three years before finding a job as a cleaner

Image: Jared was unemployed for three years before finding a job as a cleaner

The crisis here is twofold. Young people like Jared are leaving school feeling they have no prospects. And employers are struggling to find skilled school leavers to fill their workforce which is harmful to the economy.

The report is challenging companies to work with the same number of young people as they have employees to train, inspire and recruit.

University Technical Colleges are already doing this.

They are schools for 14-18 year olds which are partnered with employers, teaching mainstream subjects as well as technical skills.

We joined an engineering class at UTC Warrington and met one young student who said her GCSEs were pathing the way for her dream job as a civil structural engineer.

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The Department for Education says its standards are rising, “We want all pupils to benefit from a world class education that inspires them to make the most of their lives, no matter where they live or their background,” it said.

“That’s why we launched our Social Mobility Action Plan which sets out a range of actions including targeting the areas that need the most support through the £72m Opportunity Areas programme and our recent investment in literacy to help every child arrive at school with the vocabulary levels they need to learn.”